The Invisible Mother {For When You’re Tired and Discouraged}

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As a mother, the days can stretch so long. There are endless demands for needs that must be met: mouths fed, tears dried, diapers changed, arguments quelled, crumbs swept, discipline imparted. It’s a thankless pouring out of yourself, this sanctifying work of raising children, this task of shaping hearts, molding character, inspiring courage and modeling compassion. It’s hard. And as any mom with tiny tots underfoot knows, it’s easy to get lost in the mundane, day-to-day tasks. At times we all need a little encouragement, a gentle reminder that the incredible, difficult, rewarding work of raising our children is worth far more than we may ever know.

I just recently rediscovered this piece that I first read several years ago. It resonated deeply with me then, and it moves me now. If you’re feeling a little tired, a little discouraged, a little like no one sees, then this is for YOU. Be encouraged, sweet mama. And keep up the hard work that comes with this great privilege called motherhood.

The Invisible Mother | Faith and Composition
The Invisible Mother
by Nicole Johnson, excerpted from the book, “The Invisible Woman”

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously, not.

No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going; she’s going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I bought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘you’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

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6 thoughts on “The Invisible Mother {For When You’re Tired and Discouraged}

  1. Christine Burgener

    I needed to read this. Thank u so much. I am the mother of two little girls (just had baby #2 in May. My days are their days, my nights belong to them also. Sometimes I feel like I lost my name. I am not Christine- who has talent, dreams and ambition. I’m just wife, mother, breadwinner, cook, laundress, maid, visiting teacher, babysitter, neighbor, friend. All good titles, but all exist because someone else needs you. I LOVE being all of these things, especially a mom- but, it’s nice to feel like others feel your importance. This post gave me the boost and encouragement I’ve needed. It’s been a rough (and happy) few months in my life and a reminder that I’m building something amazing with my efforts is what I needed. Even if no one else ever realizes how great they are… I’ll know. And I’ll know it’s partially due to my hard work and diligence. 🙂 thank u again. -Christine

    Reply
    1. shaleneroberts Post author

      Christine, I so often struggle with loss of personal identity too. It seems instead that my identity is wrapped up in whatever needs I’m meeting at the moment, rather than who I’m created to be as an individual. It’s times like those when it helps to have someone who can step back and show me the big picture. That’s what this piece did for me, and I’m glad it encouraged you too. Take heart, you’re doing sacred work! That’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.

      Reply
  2. lmfcasey05

    I am feeling an invisible mom and having such a hard time. I went from career woman who prayed with my hubby for babies for 8 years to mother of three beautiful children overnight it seems. But some days are hard towing that plow down a straight line. Thank you, thank you for your words and your faith. I found them when i needed them most.

    Reply

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